Religious Objects Part 1: S. Brent Plate
This is part one of our conversation with scholar and author S. Brent Plate. Plate researches the way in which lived religious experience is influenced by materiality and physical objects. He discusses this issue in his latest book, A History of Religion in 5 1/2 Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses.
Also on the show, we present an excerpt from the new Chicago Sunday Evening Club television documentary, Divided Families: Responding with Faith.
When you were growing up, did you hum that old song by The Police - "we are spirits in the material world..."? Fast forward thirty years, and a lot of religious scholars have made a return to the physical, exploring how objects and actions inform and enrich our understandings of interior religious lives.
That question has become the focus of the work by S. Brent Plate.
Professor Plate's teachings and writings explore relations between sensual life and spiritual life. He has authored/edited eleven books and writes regularly for the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha, OnFaith, and other sites. He is co-founder and managing editor of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief, co-founder and president of SCRIPT (Society for Comparative Research in Iconic and Performative Texts), president of CrossCurrents/ The Association of Religion and Intellectual Life, and is a board member of the Interfaith Coalition of Greater Utica, NY. His most recent book is A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to its Senses.
Also on the Show
The Chicago Sunday Evening Club was founded in 1908 by the business leaders of the Windy City. It began as a live event that ran on Sunday evenings from October to May of each year. Based out of the historic Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue, the Sunday Evening Club had a half-century of successful seasons. As time went by, the live programs were broadcast on radio, and then, in 1958, the program left the stages of Orchestra Hall, and began broadcasting from the studios on WTTW, Chicago's PBS affiliate.
After nearly fifty years of producing this faith-based interview program, first called An Hour of Good News and later 30 Good Minutes, the leaders of the organization in 2012 made the decision to move in a new direction. In April of 2014 the first episode of the new series, the Chicago Sunday Evening Club Documentaries, premiered on WTTW. This series explores problems in the Chicago area, and highlights how faith communities are making positive contributions to solving those problems.
The first documentary was After Prison: Responding with Faith. The show explored the difficulties faced by ex-offenders upon re-entering society, and told the stories of three Chicago ministries that work to give returned citizens dignity, opportunity, support, and hope. It was accompanied by a website that features viewers guides and other resources to aid with discussions.
This week on the program we are offering a sneak preview of the next documentary, Divided Families: Responding with Faith. This show explores the current crisis in US immigration policies, told through the experiences of Amy and Carlos and their young children, a West Chicago family. Amy is a US citizen, and Carlos, who crossed the border illegally as a child, is now living in Mexico.
Divided Families chronicles their eleven year struggle to find the path that would lead to Carlos becoming a legal immigrant and reuniting with his family. We tell the story of a family trying to do the right things, and to find a legal path to citizenship. We also document how difficult that path can be.
We are including a short audio essay, drawn from the interviews that are in the documentary. It's presented in a "person on the street" format, exploring the question of how long people think it takes to become a legal US immigrant.